How I wish we homeschooling parents could hit on the magic formula that works for our children and find that it works forever. We’d simply do what engages them to whatever extent we possibly can, and then we would be all set.
However, engagement changes over time. This is why homeschooling based on engagement isn’t “just leaving the kids alone” to discover or create or study on their own.
As you detect what interests, activities, and methods of learning engage your children, you will be delighted with what works for them. However, you’ll also recognize that over time, what they are engaged in and how engaged they are can vary considerably.
What causes changes in levels of engagement?
- Developmental changes. Yes, kids have birthdays. Sometimes we parents forget that birthdays mean changes in how kids want to spend their time and how deeply they want to delve into certain subjects. We can feel “all set” that our child has found what we think will be a lifelong interest or approach to things, only to find that a new stage of life means that the previous interest no longer compels the child. I remember one of my children quite suddenly slid an entire shelf of childhood toys, puzzles, games, books, and projects from a bedroom into the hall — pronouncing himself “finished” with everything on the shelf at once. I was a little heart broken, but he had complete clarity.
- Self-awareness and comparison. Related to developmental changes, changing self-awareness may affect how children are engaged in learning. A child who has been fully engaged in learning basic arithmetic and science experientially or through game-playing may suddenly want workbooks or a text book because she realizes that this is how many other children learn. A child who was reluctant to learn to keyboard and do internet research may hit a new phase when she sees that other kids her age are regularly using online resources. Kids can also get to the “other side” of these new ways of wanting to learn and sometimes want to return to their former approaches, once they’ve proven to themselves that they can “do it.” Conversely, they will also adopt some new approaches to learning and stick with them because they work.